GOD, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
The familiar words above are better known as the "Serenity Prayer." It is often prayed by those who are experiencing troubles, feeling unrest in their circumstances, or living in events that are threatening the peaceful existence of their day to day lives.
There are many days and years and seasons in our walks here on earth that we will have to go through times of stress, times of fear, times of uncertainty, times of recovery. Along with the good and happy moments of life, there must also fall a little rain...sometimes these showers may become storms.
Paul speaks of what he has learned throughout the ups and downs, even turbulent days in his lifetime, sometimes facing death. At the time he penned the words in his letter to the Philippians, he was sitting in a Roman prison waiting to find out whether he would be executed.
He had learned the secret to contentment. He had found that the only way to travel on his journey was to turn everything over to the Lord...to pray about EVERYTHING.
Everything that Paul had faced in his life up to this point in time had been a learning experience. He probably never walked away from any moment without having conversed with the Lord about what was going on in his heart and mind. As a result, he felt the peace of that companionship. His thoughts and heart were quiet and at rest..not troubled, as he walked away having put his trust fully in the One whose comfort now cloaked him.
Paul had most likely prayed the words of the Serenity Prayer long before they were written down and published. There were things in his life he could not, would not be able to change.
"So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." (II Cor. 2:7-9)
There were times of fear, danger, trials, uncertainty, arrest...
"I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.[c] 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm." (II Cor. 11: 23-27)
Who of us today could speak of such trials and horrible circumstances in our lives such as this man faced constantly throughout his ministry? It puts us to shame, does it not, for the small things we may complain or whine about in our growth as Christians.
If this man could write and encourage us today to be filled with joy, to trust in our Lord and to allow God's peace to transcend over us in the midst of our trying and frustrating days, we have no excuse not to listen and follow suit.
Life is a journey. We are daily being changed and transformed into the child God wants us to become, the man or woman of God that He has foreseen from before we were born.
There will be many days we will fall short, we will stumble, we will fail to do all that we know we should. In this whole process of recovery from our past failures, God wants us to learn from our mistakes, to turn to HIM, and to find serenity in the midst, as we accept our lives as they are.
Life consists of wonderful days and joyful moments, full of smiles...and life can be difficult and trying with moments of trials and unpredictability, full of tears. These are the days of our lives, ordained by our Heavenly Father. We must become increasingly aware of the things we can NOT change in our lives, just as Paul did.
We must be constantly discerning of the things we CAN change, and always on our knees asking our divinely appointed helper, the Holy Spirit, for the wisdom to know the difference.
What will I do with these words of encouragement that this man of wisdom and experience spoke to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? What will you do with them?
Pray every day for God's peace in your current circumstances.
Ask the Father for courage to change the things that you can do something about.
Lean on Him for inner peace and acceptance of the things that you can not change.
Look to God in His Word for wisdom, such as we read today, to know the difference.
This is our Father's desire for us. That in all things He might be the ONE to whom we turn to and get our directions and our comfort, and the peace that accompanies that submitted position in our hearts.
Like Paul, might we be able to say, "I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation..." (Phil. 4:13)
Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom!